The World Cup will crown its champion this weekend — and we’re not watching. The rest of the world is, but Americans are not.
When Italy plays France in the World Cup’s championship match in Germany on Sunday, soccer fans in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and Australia will stop whatever they’re doing and tune in the game. And, no matter what the nationality, the outcome will matter greatly to each and every one of them.
Sure, we’ve got our baseball, our golf, our NASCAR going on right now and fans of each sport are probably just as passionate as the world’s soccer fans. But they’re sitting at separate tables, having separate conversations.
I think that’s what this World Cup has shown me, that everybody else is a soccer fan and we’re not. I’m not saying we’re less than any of these fans, I just think we’re missing out.
In Italy, some 50,000 fans crowded around a huge television screen in the country’s famed Circo Massimo area to watch Italy beat Germany. Thousands of fans watched on giant screens that were placed in many of the country’s piazzas. In all, more than 35 million Italians tuned in the game. Italy’s total population is around 58 million.
In France, a half-million fans flooded Paris to celebrate the French’s semifinal victory over Portugal. It was estimated that 85 percent of England watched that country’s quarterfinal match against Portugal.
Right now, fans from Ghana can debate fans from Brazil whether English striker Wayne Rooney deserved a red card in England’s quarterfinal match with Portugal, so can fans from Spain and Argentina.
In England, ever since the incident, the entire country has debated the future relationship between Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal. The two are teammates on the English powerhouse Manchester United.
I’m not saying the game of soccer is better than any of the games we relish here in America. I realize the game can be far from riveting on television. I realize that some soccer games are mind-numbingly boring. But if you make the effort to get to know the game and its players, it will lead you to wonderful conversations with millions of people on this planet.
The world needs more uniting things right now, and if soccer is one of the things that truly does unite people of so many different backgrounds, then it’s definitely worth our attention. If for no other reason than the next time we’re in one of the world’s airports, we can turn to the person seated next to us and say, “Think Rooney deserved a red card?”
NOW THAT I’VE GOT YOUR ATTENTION: No matter how the season is going, there’s nothing that gets Giants fans percolating up like a series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. So many memories, so much history. This is a great rivalry, right down to the uniforms, because there is nothing that stands out at a Giants game at AT&T Park like Dodger blue in a sea of orange and black. Same goes for Giants fans in Dodger Stadium.
It feels as if Barry Bonds is aging by the day. Giants games have flown by the past month or so without him being so much as a remote factor in the outcome. Home runs have been non-existent the past two weeks, almost an afterthought.
It’s still Barry out there, but he’s starting to look like a ghost. Like he’s a spectator watching the game along with us. To anybody who remembers how every Giants game revolved around him, first at Candlestick, then at Pac Bell Park, it’s hard to get used to.